Buffs Basketball Season Opener Thoughts and Impressions

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(Jose Carlos Fajardo/Contra Costa Times/MCT)

California's Justin Cobbs (1) and Harper Kamp (22) sandwich Colorado's Askia Booker in the first half of a Pac-12 Tournament semifinal at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, on Friday, March 9, 2012.

Andrew Rodriguez, Contributor

On Friday night the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team opened their season against the Wofford Terriers from the Southern Conference. Under head coach Mike Young, the Terriers have made the NCAA Tournament twice, in 2009 and 2010. They went 19-13 last season and lost in the first round in the CBI Tournament against Pittsburgh.

Needless to say, they were far from a pushover and they have a young, athletic team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Last year’s Buffs team would have struggled against this Wofford team but it’s already clear that this year’s team is going to be one of the best in CU basketball history. With all of that said, here are some of the initial impressions and thoughts I had about the team.

  • Josh Scott is a lot more polished to begin with than I expected. Not since David Harrison have the Buffs had such a good low post scorer on the team. Hopefully he isn’t in a commercial as cheesy as this one Harrison did when he was on the Pacers.  Scott put up 14 points, 6 rebounds (4 offensive), and a block, while going 10-11 from the charity stripe. When your big man can get to the line that easily and knock down the free throws with ease, you really don’t have to worry too much about your offense.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie looks like an NBA player this season. When I first saw him on the court, I barely recognized him. He clearly spent most of the offseason in the gym building muscle and being in hilarious parody videos. It was clear to me that he is ready to run the Buffs offense at the point (he played mostly shooting guard last season but his natural position is point guard) and he’s going to turn some heads with his play this year. He had a very good first game, putting up 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks. Dinwiddie attacked the basket far more often than he did last season and it paid great dividends to him as he got to the line 9 times (he only got to the line 4 times a game last season). Watch for him to have a breakout season and turn the heads of NBA scouts with his great play this season.
  • Asika Booker looked like a completely different player on Friday night. He got the offense going early and ended up with 13 points on 6-13 shooting. While I expected that he’d remain in the same role as he had last year as the 6th man and sparkplug off the bench, it’s clear that he’s starter material and he looks ready to go after two strong performances against UNLV and Baylor in the NCAA Tournament last season (16 and 15 points respectively). He still needs work on his ball control (3 unnecessary turnovers on Friday) but even with the turnovers, he seemed a lot more in control on Friday than he ever did last season.
  • Former Monarch basketball standout Sabatino Chen improved significantly over the offseason. It was a shock to Buffs fans that Tad Boyle had him as a starter for the season opener, but it all makes sense now. Chen scored 9 points on 3-5 shooting from the field and 2-2 from the line. He also nailed a 3 which is surprising as he went 0-11 from 3 last year. Not to mention that he played great defense, which is expected out of him. It’s clear he’s going to bring a lot of “Chenergy” to this Buffs team.
  • Opponents are going to key on shutting down Andre Roberson. He struggled on Friday, going 2-8 from the field with only 6 rebounds. But it was clear that the Terriers number one goal was to shut down Andre. Many teams this season will attempt to contain him and it’ll be up to Andre to show them that no amount of game planning will shut him down. I’m not worried though. He’s still far too athletically gifted to allow other teams to shut him down.
  • Xavier Talton (who I expected to redshirt this season) is probably the fastest player on the team, rivaled only by Asika Booker. He’s going to make some defenders look foolish this season.
  • While Xavier Johnson still needs to work on his outside game, he’s going to be a key contributor on this Buffs team. He collected 8 boards on Friday and he proved that he’s going to be a tenacious rebounder. The 2011 Buffs struggled at times controlling the glass (even with top of the Pac-12 rebounder Andre Roberson) but it’s clear that the 2012 team is going to dominate the boards with Andre Roberson, Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and Spencer Dinwiddie.
  • Shane Harris-Tunks and Eli Stalzer are going to surprise people this year. Both of them turned in solid performances against Wofford and they should both play important roles this season. Stalzer already looks like an experienced college basketball player while Tunks looks to have worked on his post moves and defense over the offseason.
  • Free throw shooting will no longer be a problem this season. Last year, the Buffs shot a paltry 69% from the line and they lost some games due to their poor FT shooting (they missed 16 free throws in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Colorado State). On Friday night, free throw shooting didn’t look like it would figure to be a problem this season as the Buffs went 28-36 from the charity stripe (77.8%).
  •  The Buffs still need work on defense. I was concerned about how Wofford was able to get so many open 3 point jumpers and how much trouble we had fighting through screens. This problem needs to be fixed soon or we’re going to see Brady Heslip go off against the Buffs again in the Charleston Classic.